BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Entertainment
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Showbiz 
Music 
Film 
Arts 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Reviews 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Saturday, 7 October, 2000, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Actor Richard Farnsworth dies
Farnsworth as Alvin Straight in Straight Story
Farnsworth was ill with cancer when he played his finest role
The veteran actor Richard Farnsworth is reported to have shot himself dead at his New Mexico home.

He was 80, and had been diagnosed as suffering from terminal cancer.

Tom Sullivan, the Sheriff of Lincoln county, where Farnsworth lived, said: "This was an obvious self-inflicted gunshot."

Farnsworth spent 40 years as a stuntman and double before winning his first speaking role at the age of 57. His career peaked this year with an Oscar nomination as best leading actor for his role in Straight Story.

In pain

In the film he played an elderly man, Alvin Straight, who drove from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawn mower to see his brother, who was dying of cancer.

Richard Farnsworth
Richard Farnsworth: Two Oscar nominations
Farnsworth's fiancee, Jewely Van Valin, said that he himself was struggling with pain caused by cancer as he made the film.

Farnsworth was the oldest leading actor ever to be nominated for an Oscar.

He had earlier received a nomination as best supporting actor in his portrayal of a wagon driver in the 1978 film Comes a Horseman.

Sheriff Sullivan said Farnsworth was found dead at the home he shared with Ms Van Valin.


If there was a wagon or something I would be driving it

Richard Farnsworth
"The lady who lives with him heard a gunshot a little after 5pm tonight and she went into the room and saw him," Mr Sullivan said.

"She called a neighbour who was one of my former deputies... He went over and found Mr Farnsworth."

Supporting roles

Farnsworth was born on 1 September 1920 in Los Angeles and began his career as a stuntman at the age of 16, often doubling for stars in Westerns.

"If there was a wagon or something I would be driving it," he was quoted as saying.

"But they didn't let me say anything."

His first speaking role was in The Duchess and Dirtwater Fox in 1976. He also appeared in The Grey Fox, The Natural, Tom Horn, Resurrection, Rhinestone Cowboy, Anne of Green Gables, Havana and Misery.

Farnsworth's weathered face and crystal blue eyes were easily recognisable.

Ms Van Valin said he would be buried in Hollywood.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

22 Mar 00 | Oscars 2000
Hollywood across the ages
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories